According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death in children under age 5 in the USA, with around 360 children dying each year. In Cayman, thankfully water-related deaths among children are relatively low, as children are taught water safety from a young age. However, one should never get complacent, as accidents can happen in an instant. With so many children participating in water-related activities, it is important to stay safe in Cayman's waters.
Here are some top tips for keeping you and your family safe in or around the water.
1. Set Strict Limits
Teach children that they are not allowed to enter a pool or the sea without an adult’s permission. Always review the area's ‘Pool Rules’ with your child before entering the water. For older children, state exactly how deep they are allowed into the sea. It is recommended that children use flotation devices in the sea such as noodles, swim belts and puddle jumpers as even strong swimmers can get into trouble.
2. Supervise Children
Children should always be supervised when in or near the water. Adults who are supervising children should remain alert, vigilant and never turn away or get distracted, even for a moment. Whenever infants or toddlers are in or around water, an adult should be within arm’s reach. Remember that small children can drown in as little as one inch of water.
3. Learn What Drowning Looks Like
Drowning is not the violent, splashing call for help that people expect. When people are struggling to breathe, speech and screaming become secondary. The natural reaction is to extend arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface, as opposed to waving. It's important to be aware of what drowning looks like.
4. Learn CPR
Parents need to learn basic first aid, CPR and basic water rescue. Both adults and children should know what to do if they see someone in trouble in the water.
Water Safety courses are available at Fitness Connection (private and group), as well as CPR/First Aid courses, which are also offered by the Red Cross (private and group). Fitness Connection and Sky Blue Aquatics also offers Nanny Water Safety Courses to teach nannies about pool safety and how to swim.
Some Common Signs of Drowning
Head low in the water with mouth at water level.
Head tilted back with mouth open.
Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus.
Eyes entirely closed.
Hair flopped over forehead or eyes.
Not using legs, but vertical in the water.
Hyperventilating or gasping.
Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway.
Trying to roll over onto back without success.
Appearing to be climbing an invisible ladder.
Enrol kids in swimming lessons to ensure that they are equipped with the skills to swim safely. Babies can start lessons as young as six weeks old with a paediatrician's approval. Infants cannot swim on their own as they are not strong enough and have not yet developed fine motor skills. However, starting little ones in swim lessons at a young age will get your child comfortable with structured lessons, their teacher and, most importantly, the water. All swim lessons should include safety survival techniques such as:
Fall in, turn around, reach for the wall
Fall in, roll over, float
Getting in and out of a pool safely
Holding and walking (with hands) on the side of the pool